Weekender: Tees­dale

Stay­ing in Tees­dale, Gary Richard­son was fa­mil­iar with his sur­round­ings, but not his rather stylish ac­com­mo­da­tion

Practical Caravan - - Contents -

Gary Richard­son en­joys a short break in a T@B and dis­cov­ers the beauty of Co Durham’s coun­try­side

I HAVE A bit of a con­fes­sion to make – I’ve just spent a fan­tas­tic week­end away with a younger model. ‘Musky’, our Sprite Mus­ke­teer, turned 30 this year, so I’ve treated our faith­ful friend to a full ser­vice and re­seal. Be­ing with­out a tourer for a cou­ple of weeks, I took the op­por­tu­nity of en­joy­ing a few days away in a T@B car­a­van. Doe Park in County Durham of­fers this model for hire, com­plete with all you need for a stay on the site. With a new Mini Cooper at my dis­posal, this re­ally was an ir­re­sistible op­por­tu­nity to go glamp­ing in such a stylish, retro unit. Doe Park is a fam­ily-run tour­ing car­a­van site on a work­ing farm near the village of Cother­stone in Tees­dale. Es­tab­lished for many years by the Lamb fam­ily, the mead­ows have spa­cious pitches for car­a­vans. Here you’ll also find the T@B pitched and set up with an awning, ideal for cou­ples and fam­i­lies to hire if they haven’t got a tourer of their own. It cer­tainly makes for an easy stay, with the T@B al­ready con­nected to hook-up, wa­ter and gas sup­ply. You’ll also find all of the es­sen­tial camp­ing equip­ment – bed­ding, cook­ing uten­sils, crock­ery and cut­lery, and a wel­come pack of tea, cof­fee, milk, juice and fresh bread – ready on your ar­rival. The only ad­di­tional items you need to bring, apart from your week­end bag, are tow­els. Car­a­van­ning made easy!

Guided tour

On ar­rival at Doe Park, I was shown to the car­a­van and given a guided tour of the fa­cil­i­ties, most of which any car­a­van­ner will be fa­mil­iar with. Af­ter un­pack­ing, I quickly set­tled in. The ac­com­mo­da­tion was only part of the rea­son for this par­tic­u­lar week­end trip, be­cause County Durham has much to of­fer the trav­eller and there is lots to see and do in beau­ti­ful Tees­dale. Cother­stone it­self is a gor­geous village and ex­plor­ing it on foot is easy from Doe Park. Cross­ing the stone bridge leads to the charming West Green, over­looked by a most wel­com­ing pub, The Fox & Hounds. The food here makes it well worth a visit and a meal and drinks pro­vide a pleas­ant evening in the bar or restau­rant. Fur­ther

along is the village shop and the post of­fice, which the site owners rec­om­mend for vis­i­tors seek­ing pro­vi­sions. It is al­ways good to see car­a­van sites in ru­ral ar­eas help­ing to pro­mote and sup­port lo­cal in­de­pen­dent busi­nesses. Mean­while, back at the farm our T@B awaited and an early night was on the cards, be­fore be­gin­ning a full agenda of coun­try liv­ing the fol­low­ing morn­ing. Break­fast time and our fresh farm pro­duce came into its own for a hearty start to the day. Ev­ery­thing was pro­vided and a handy pop-up toaster in place of the tra­di­tional grill meant the home-baked bread made de­li­cious toast. Pay a lit­tle ex­tra and you can or­der ad­di­tional items on ar­rival, such as a Con­ti­nen­tal break­fast (£10), lo­cal food ham­per (£20), or a cel­e­bra­tion ham­per of lux­ury choco­lates and a bot­tle of Pros­ecco (£20). The front win­dow of the T@B looks out over sheep and lambs graz­ing in the ad­ja­cent meadow and the com­fort­able re­clin­ing deck-chairs in the awning of­fered ad­di­tional loung­ing. Many vis­i­tors come reg­u­larly to Doe Park and there are also sea­sonal pitches here, for those who pre­fer not to tow too of­ten. At re­cep­tion, there is lots of use­ful tourist in­for­ma­tion about the many lo­cal at­trac­tions and af­ter lunch, Barnard Cas­tle was on the af­ter­noon agenda.

Cas­tles and trea­sures

This his­toric mar­ket town is only a 15-minute drive from Cother­stone and makes a great start­ing point for vis­i­tors want­ing to ex­plore Tees­dale. The cas­tle ru­ins greet trav­ellers by road and climb­ing the steep bank past the old mar­ket cross, you’ll find shops, pubs and eater­ies to suit all tastes. The pub­lic li­brary and post of­fice at the top by the church are also good sources of lo­cal in­for­ma­tion and park­ing isn’t too dif­fi­cult, even on busy days. Tak­ing a stroll along the main thor­ough­fare is an ideal op­por­tu­nity to get your bear­ings and en­joy some of the lo­cal at­trac­tions. The big­gest, most im­pres­sive at­trac­tion in Barnard Cas­tle is one that takes many vis­i­tors by sur­prise, though. The mag­nif­i­cent Bowes Mu­seum on the edge of the town is a sight to be­hold, a pur­pose-built trea­sure house that can eas­ily ri­val any in London or be­yond. Founded by John and Josephine Bowes in the 19th cen­tury, this breath-tak­ing build­ing, in the style of a grand French château, is open to the pub­lic all year round and houses im­por­tant Euro­pean fine and dec­o­ra­tive art, in­clud­ing works by El Greco, Francisco Goya and Canaletto, as well as a huge col­lec­tion of ce­ram­ics, tex­tiles, tapestries and fur­ni­ture. The mu­seum is sit­u­ated in mag­nif­i­cent grounds, with for­mal plea­sure gar­dens and im­pres­sive ma­ture trees com­ple­ment­ing this jewel of an at­trac­tion.

‘It is al­ways good to see car­a­van sites in ru­ral ar­eas help­ing to pro­mote and sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses’

There is no short­age of his­toric cas­tles in the north of Eng­land and a brief drive led us to Raby Cas­tle near Stain­drop. Set in 200 acres of deer park, this mag­nif­i­cent ex­am­ple was founded by one John Neville, third Baron Neville de Raby, some time be­tween 1367 and 1390. The cas­tle is still a pri­vate home, but is open to the pub­lic, with a large car park, re­cep­tion area, café, shop and for­mal gar­dens all ready to ex­plore. In­side Raby Cas­tle it­self are ex­ten­sive works of art, in­clud­ing Old Masters, and this fine col­lec­tion in­cludes work by Luca Gior­dano, An­thony van Dyck and Sir Joshua Reynolds. The build­ing has no fewer than nine tow­ers along the perime­ter and the main cas­tle sur­rounds a cen­tral court­yard. The great hall, known as the Baron’s Hall, and the me­dieval kitchens have been well pre­served. Look out for deer graz­ing in the park, which adds to the at­mos­phere. Re­turn­ing to camp, the nearby village of Roma­ld­kirk is a haven from a busy world and The Rose & Crown pub pro­vides a wel­come place to re­lax and un­wind af­ter a long day of ex­plor­ing. Lo­cal ales are on tap here and the pros­per­ous houses by the green take you back to a by­gone era of un­hur­ried life. If you plan to dine at this es­tab­lish­ment, it’s ad­vis­able to book a ta­ble, be­cause the rep­u­ta­tion of the food and drink here has spread far and wide, so it can be busy.

Slow down and re­lax

Tees­dale is a place of his­tory, from cas­tles and mu­se­ums, to charming coun­try pubs and work­ing farms which are the life-blood of the com­mu­nity. Af­ter a day or two, the hus­tle and bus­tle of daily life seems to slow down a notch, with­out you even notic­ing it. The gen­tler pace is good for the soul, but don’t ever think you’ll be bored here, with so many hid­den trea­sures to dis­cover. Add in a warm wel­come from the lo­cals and a trendy T@B to stay in, and this visit will be one to re­mem­ber.

Tees­dale is a beau­ti­ful area to ex­plore, and Gary en­joyed stay­ing in a hired T@B car­a­van with all mod cons pro­vided

GARY RICHARD­SON drove his 2018 MiniCooper to take a short break in a 2017 T@B

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP Hearty break­fast to start the day. The T@B is com­pact but com­fort­able. Don’t miss the mag­nif­i­cent Bowes Mu­seum. Barnard Cas­tle is a pleas­ant mar­ket town with lots of shops and pubs

LEFT-RIGHT The gar­dens at Raby Cas­tle in­clude this very im­pos­ing con­ser­va­tory. The cas­tle has nine fine tow­ers around its perime­ter

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